A Small 550-Square-Foot Chicago Rental Is Incredibly Cheeky

A Small 550-Square-Foot Chicago Rental Is Incredibly Cheeky

Name: Carlos J. De Jesus and Andrew W. Fallon
Location: East Lakeview — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 550 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

How do two people with slightly different style backgrounds and interests come together and design a home for themselves that explodes with attitude and fun? That was the challenge that Carlos De Jesus and Andrew Fallon faced when moving to this East Lakeview, Chicago, apartment a couple years ago. Carlos brought the signature furniture pieces, while Andrew had a colorful collection of pop art and comic figures. They decided to mix the best of both worlds, and together they brought the funk: the collection was displayed artfully in a modern way, while the sophisticated furniture pieces were paired with saucy accents. What they achieved is a very personal joint style where mid-century modern meets eclectic pop art, with a dose of cheeky humor and cat-lady tendencies!

There are so many moments in this couple's home that make you stop and take notice. Everywhere you go, they took a challenging design moment, and came up with an interesting solution, or they found a way to merge both their interests in a compelling way. Take Andrew's collection of art prints and pop figure collection. A small portion of these items are displayed throughout the home in subtle and minimal ways (for example, a pair of Star Wars figures are on a shelf in the kitchen, along with a cartoon of Lucile Ball and her Vitameatavegamin), but Andrew also wanted to display his large collection of Funko Pop! figures somewhere in the home. Their solution was to display them artfully, almost museum-like in their organization, on white shelves in the bedroom. What could have looked disorganized and chaotic, instead has become an "Oh WOW" moment done in a sophisticated way!

The rest of the apartment is just as fun and has so many little Easter Eggs that you're constantly saying "look at this, OMG did they really do that, what the? I love it!" There's a pattern on the entry wall that looks like a large-scale wallcovering, but the couple created it with just white paint and chalk tape. To these sharp geometric lines they added some curved elements: a small half-moon table, a round mirror, and a curvy vase with a single large philodendron.

The living room has the greatest juxtaposition of elements. For example, a gorgeous mid-century display hutch houses a candle in the shape of a cat and a figure of Wonder Woman in her invisible plane. The side table next to the hutch is made of brass and marble, and there's a Darth Vader candle on top of it. Above the classic wood-armed sofa is a great painting of the Golden Girls, mixed in with other artful prints, while on the sofa itself you'll find a smiling poop-emoji pillow, an Oreo cookie pillow, and a stuffed Totoro! There's a golden skull statue, mid-century lamps and side tables, a Rupaul print, and even a Noguchi table and Eames Lounger. It's eclectic and funny and weird, and somehow still mature and worldly.

The dining room was allowed to be a little more subtle, but with a bold Carbon-colored paint color and white trim. Traditional and modern chairs sit under a Sputnik chandelier, brass curtain rods and light sheers cover the window, and there's even a small framed sketch of the couple atop the radiator.

As is the case with many of these century-old Chicago apartments, the home needed a few alterations, and the couple was ready with their DIY prowess. The areas in most need of a little TLC were the main walk-in closet and the kitchen. The closet was very narrow and had a bunch of mismatched closet rods installed all over the place, to the point where you couldn't even reach the back. So they ripped everything out and started fresh—the rods were raised up higher and placed at the back, with inexpensive shelves at the front. The kitchen was also long and narrow, but in this case what was missing was storage, so the couple hacked inexpensive white cabinets from Target, which they raised up to counter height with wood legs, and then topped with a stained wood countertop, new hardware, and floating Target shelves. Problem solved!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style:
C: Mid-Century Modern with Traditional and Geometric Elements.
A: Eclectic with Pop Culture and Bohemian Elements.

C: I wanted to push the boundaries on what I could do on a tight budget. As a designer, I'm inspired by the process of problem solving, and genuinely enjoy anything DIY.
A: I wanted to prove that you can introduce nerdy and youthful elements into a proper space without sacrificing style and substance.

Favorite Element:
C: My entry wall. Never knew chalk tape could make such an impact!
A: Additional kitchen DIY storage. The cats now have their very own cupboard!

Biggest Challenge:
C: Patience and compromise. I love instant gratification and picking everything out myself. This experience has taught me the importance of a slow process, and the joy of being less selfish in the decision making.
A: Budget. I could order goods off of Amazon Prime all day every day but I had to learn how to pace myself and allow the space and my collection to begin to take shape more naturally.

What Friends Say: Our friends often make mention that our space feels homey yet elevated. The space has really evolved over the last year or so and we often receive comments on how far our place has come. Our friends and family members always enjoy discovering firsthand the latest changes and additions that have been made. We love to host and somehow always manage to fit a lot of people into our small apartment.

Biggest Embarrassment:
C: The layers of paint on our trim—it looks like a melted candle everywhere you look. Our building is pushing a century, and when it comes to trim it's hard not to notice.
A: The floors feel as ancient as the building itself, so not even our cats are capable of moving in silence.

Proudest DIY: Our walk-in closet. It's very narrow and was borderline unusable. The closet featured closet rods that were sporadically installed that barred any access to the actual closet. The closet also featured layers of makeshift add-ons from previous tenants. I removed just about everything and started from scratch. A fresh coat of paint, inexpensive storage and garment rods really made a difference.

Biggest Indulgence:
C: It would have to be my Eames replica lounge chair and ottoman. I use it daily, so I consider it money well spent.
A: I would feel compelled to mention our budding art print collection. There are countless prints not even featured that are being stored elsewhere. I have a bit of a problem when it comes to Etsy, Society6, and most importantly C2E2 Artists' Alley!

Best Advice:
C: Don't take yourself too seriously with your space. A little humor goes a long way.
A: Remember to take the time to enjoy the hunt and the process. Your taste and space will continue to evolve so you have to make a point to appreciate those small victories.

Dream Sources:
C: Herman Miller, Holly Hunt, Farrow & Ball, Poliform, and Kartell.
A: SDCC, NYCC, DC Collectibles and PCS Collectibles.


Living Room — True Value - Baseball D363
Dining Room — Behr - Carbon N5207
Bedroom — Behr - Ultra Pure White 1850
Bedroom Accent Wall —True Value - Baseball D363

Ohm Symbol — City Buddha
Mirror — Target
Demilune Table — IKEA
Leather Vase — Crate and Barrel
Faux Palm Leaf — CB2
Framed Cat Prints — Etsy
Mail Holder (Berry Rake) — Three Stars Resale Shop

Sofa — Craigslist
Coffee Table — Amazon
Rug — One Allium Way
Credenza — The Arc
Book Shelf — Craigslist
Prints — Etsy, Society6 and C2E2
Frames — ArtToFrames
Cat Tree — Amazon
Octagonal Side Table — DIY
Marble Top Round Table — Target
Golden Skull — Equinox
Darth Vader Candle — Renegade Craft Festival
Gold Lamp — Target
Wonder Woman w/ Invisible Jet — Chicago Comics.

Table & Chairs — Craigslist
Credenza — The Arc
Side Chairs — The Arc
Chandelier — Wayfair
Rug — Wayfair
Mirror — Marshalls
Clock — Target
Line Print — DIY
Wall Decor — Target

Floating Shelves — Target
Faux Cabinets — Target
Faux Cabinets Countertop, Legs, and Pulls — Home Depot
Backsplash — Home Depot
Rugs — Target
Magnets — Chicago Comics

Bed and End Tables — IKEA
Desk — Marshalls
Desk Chair — Craigslist
Lighting — Target
Side Chair — DIY
Prints — Chad Sell
Literature — Chicago Comics and Graham Cracker Comics.
Collectibles — C2E2, Rotofugi, Chicago Comics, KA-POW Collectibles and Graham Cracker Comics

Prints — Chad Sell
Shower Curtain, Towels & Bath Mats — Target

Thanks, Carlos and Andrew!

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